In the last several years, outside of the power sector, one other major area that has served previous regimes and their officials as conduit was the railway sector. If the statistics of the colossal resources that have been stolen in the various sectors of the federal expenditure are taken, railway certainly tops along with power and others. Nigeria was simply a mockery of a nation whose internal dealings were deplorable and whose external perception was most negative.
The centrality of transportation in the scheme of development is critically a necessity. Rail provides the overwhelming means that facilitates easy haulage and mass transportation at affordable rates. The level of rail transportation in any country is an indicator of its economic growth and development. Those whose train systems are functional have made difficulties in the movement of goods and services an issue of the past, meaning that rail transportation is necessary.
Those who lack it are obviously lacking in development. At this time several societies are in the depth of shortages and absence. Nigeria would have been greater than this if we did not lose our railway initiatives. I am always baffled by those over-ground stations all over the United Kingdom. They built them for us the same way they built theirs. They maintained and improved on theirs, ours only dilapidated to a state of disrepair. This is scandalous. Sometimes I have this feeling that probing Nigeria should be long pre-Jonathan.
The degree of crimes against humanity that have been created by leadership at various levels and sectors is alarming. Nobody can explain the Nigerian dilemma outside the prism of arrested development. Nigeria in recent times did lose its face in not just global or African affairs but even at the micro-level of sub-region and other common services like the Lake Chad Basin Commission among others.
Leadership has been the vacuum and perhaps because the population is badly beaten, we are tired of the rot and demanded a new way and a new life. Thank God we have fought and victory is ours. What must be done is that those in leadership positions must show commitment so as to win the buy-in of the rest of us. We all must celebrate the new day and it must lead to new life.
We have already begun to see visible traces of signs of change in critical sectors of our national life. These attainments or pointers to direction of achievement must not lax the state into a comma of illusion which may boomerang in the future. I hope those in government know that the traces of successes on ground are being studied critically for counter actions just to reduce the bashing of the old order?
This piece seeks to explore the imperatives of change in a restructured rail system that would serve the people, and the industrial as well agricultural aspirations of the Nigerian society. For change to be real and meaningful to the generality of the citizens, it must come along with it the actualisation of new realities. It was Henry Kissinger who said that the success of any government is measured in terms of its ability to bring forth new realities.
Why we dropped and vehemently rejected the old government was because we desired a new reality. New realities! Anything short of that will diminish the light of change and dampen the aspirations of the citizens. Nigerians definitely desire new life for all and this government must be the pivot. If indicators are anything to go by, we should begin to go to sleep with our two eyes closed but we will not close them so that the euphoria of the moment is not misconstrued by those whom we rely on to give us a new order.
Transportation must be a priority of the change agenda. We cannot get transport right without and effective and efficient railway. I am saying that the government should constitute a study to explore the shortfalls, leakages and way out of this quagmire. Lesser mortals have built efficient rail systems.
The secret is simple, relative honesty and integrity. In Nigeria, these have lacked in public spaces for a while and we cannot make progress until we get these basic issues right. As a student in the university in the early 1980s, I saw how my classmates finished their examinations at 5pm in Zaria and arrived Enugu early morning the next day at minimal cost and risks via the trains.
In fact, the history of national integration in Nigeria is incomplete without special reference to the trains. When the white man came, he built the tracks, a process through which he obtained firsthand information about the geo-physical realities of the length and breadth of the country. More than 50 years after independence, the office of statistics of the federation does not have comprehensive data on the actual geo-physical mapping of this giant called Nigeria.
Just like oil is drilled without account, several resources abound in the country whose exploitation is so unregulated to the extent that it impacts very negatively on the national capacity. There is no choice but to make things work in the name of now and the future. Change cannot be effected if transportation is not reinvigorated, the backbone of which is railway.
A change agent will be the rail. We have seen the time and resources that have been flushed down the previous attempts and they must serve as sufficient lessons against the reoccurrence of such wastages. We require efficient application of resources for the good of all. It is possible to deploy resources for development and they add value.
If Sure-P under Martin Luther Agwai could achieve as much in the multiple areas of intervention, it is possible that routine budgetary provisions should create real progress in the provision of a good life.
At the annual general meeting of Sure-P in Lokoja last year, some inside sources revealed their frustrations on the huge interference from the ministers of Niger Delta and works in the funding and intervention of the scheme. If the Abuja-Kaduna fast rail tracks were completed by Sure-P, if the Abuja-Lokoja expressway was completed by Sure-P and the south-west-north-west tracks of the old gauge train were rehabilitated by Sure-P and the east-north-east route also being rehabilitated by the same funds, one wonders where the regular budgetary allocations to these sectors were going to.
The answer is simple; they were stolen by public officials. That is why a few Nigerians have so much and the mass of have little or nothing. The change that we all expect is such that the cost of stealing in public and private life would bear tragic consequences. The stakes should be high and only few that are ready to bear the consequences go into misdemeanor as against this random thievery where everyone steals on the basis of access.
Nigeria should definitely be out of that reign and the meaning is huge resources would go into public infrastructure that would support life and activity. This is our dream for change and huge on the agenda is the revitalisation of rail transportation so we may also sing the songs of all praise be to Him.